Sunday, August 07, 2016

I am now the kind of girl who runs half marathons

I ran a half marathon yesterday. I felt that maybe I should blog something about it, since most people consider it a quite big deal. I, on the other hand, have really mixed feelings now when I have actually finished it. It was just so much easier than I expected. I expected it to be kind of a struggle but in the reality it was just a really long run. I wasn't considerably different than my regular 10km runs.

I signed up in February. I wanted to sign up as early as possible so I wouldn't chicken out, plus it was cheaper the earlier you signed up. It took me a long time before I even started my running season this year. I am not a winter runner. I needed to wait until the ice and snow are all gone. And then I stopped running. Until I started running again. Seriously, this has been the worst running season in my life. And by life I mean these past years I have been actually running and not just imagining it in my little head.

But on the other hand this has been the best running season in my life. I finally got a running partner who is not far better than me. Just a little better. Good enough to get me out and running, to get me motivated, to make me work just a little bit harder. It also feels good to share the love of running with another thing you love.

I had hesitated. I had not been running as much as I should have. I had not really trained at all. My runs have been sloppy and all over the place. But the runs that I had, the good runs, they were really good. I got the flow, the feeling that I could go on forever. Other days I felt so good about going and doing the half marathon, other days I felt that it could never happen. I felt both of these outcomes were exactly as likely to happen.

But eventually my boyfriend managed to push me on the more positive side. Sometimes he seemed to be even more into the idea of me running the half marathon than I was. I wanted to do it for him too. So all his support wouldn't go waste. If I had put one of those "I am doing this for" signs on my back, my sign would have had his name on it.

So I ran a half marathon. That's 21.1 kilometers.  The first 10 kilometers were quite easy. I've ran 10 kilometers more times than I can remember. The next five kilometers weren't exactly bad either. I was mostly running on my own, no other runners nearby. I couldn't tell how many runners were running behind me or in front of me. I only saw a couple other runners in my second 10 kilometer lap. It was quite easy to achieve some kind of a flow when you just ran and followed a single chalk line on the ground. I didn't need to think about anything. I mostly admired the landscape. The sky was a really nice when the sun started to set. The sea was fabulous too. It was a really nice route to run and since it was new to me, I didn't exactly get bored either.

The first time I experienced something I could call as a minor struggle was in the 17th kilometer. My feet didn't hurt. I still felt pretty good considering that I had already run 17 kilometers. I was just somehow getting bored of the motion, bored of running. But the urge to do anything besides running wasn't really strong enough to stop me from running. I just thought to myself "When was the last time I couldn't run four kilometers?". Never, that is the answer. I can always run four kilometers. So I ran the final four kilometers, all the way to the finish line.

And the view from the finish line was beautiful. I just sat there, on a little piece of grass, eating a banana - even though I don't like bananas - and thinking to myself that I had just finished a half marathon. That was the only time I wished there was someone with me. I enjoyed running solo because I was able to run my own comfortable pace at all time... but while I was sitting there I wished there was someone sitting there and sharing the feeling with me. The trembling sore legs, the slowly steadying breath, being so sweaty you don't even know where to start, the everything. But at least I was able to share the moment with the beautiful landscape, while hearing the list of names of the people who finished after me.

It was easy. And then again not. Mostly easy, but there were moments. I wanted it to be a struggle so it would feel like a real accomplishment. I don't know what to make of it. I don't know how to be proud of something that felt so easy to do. I feel like I should be proud of myself but I just can't. I just did something I was very able to do and achieved it with almost no effort at all. I didn't train, I barely even ran. I didn't have any special diet, any special plan. I guess I should have had a goal or something. To make it a struggle. To make it something impossible to reach. Maybe next year. Maybe next year I try to run every kilometer one minute faster. That way I should be able to drop 21 minutes from my time. That's a struggle.

Either way. No matter how I feel about it. I am now an official half marathoner. I got a little medal to show for, though it doesn't say anything on it. Just the name of the race. Nobody knows whether I participated in the 5 kilometer walk or the half marathon. At least my race bib shows the real distance.

Now I have another race coming up; my third Midnight Run Helsinki. My boyfriend is participating too, I just signed him up yesterday. It's kinda weird to think about sometimes. That I am the kind of person who signs up and participates in races. Who knew? After all I was the girl who used to hate all sports. So I guess in that sense the half marathon was quite an achievement. I was definitely not born to run. I've had to learn how to be a runner, how to run, and how to keep running. That is still the real struggle. How to keep running despite of everything.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Vad i helvete?!

Be careful what you wish for, they say. Be careful. I remember this one blog post I wrote back in 2008, in which I semi-seriously pondered whether I should study Swedish, the other official language of Finland. I can't remember why I got the idea and why I thought it was a good idea, but I remember discarding that idea pretty much as quickly as I got it. I guess I assumed it would be too much work, to be too laborious.

But little did I know... that in 2015 I would actually pretty much fall in love with the Swedish language. Fall. In. Love. I am 100% serious. I fell in love with the language I used to hate for years. And it happened by an accident, because of a stupid joke that wasn't even funny in the first place. It's amazing how little things can change the way you view things.

It started with, the language learning website. I had heard so much about it that I eventually just wanted to give it a try. I wanted to see what it was all about and whether it worked or not. I made an account and suddenly I was faced with a tough decision; what language should I try?And in case you don't know already, there is a surprisingly wide selection of languages to choose from! Hastily I decided to make a fun decision, something to entertain me at work. So I chose the language everybody hates, that I hated; Swedish.

I am highly motivated by magical invisible internet points. I love getting experience points and level-ups, they do wonders to me. So once I started "playing", I wanted to advance up in the skill tree, get more level-ups, get more experience points. I was hooked. And suddenly I forgot that Swedish was supposed to be oh-so-dreadful and oh-so-boring. That I was supposed to dislike it, even hate it. The more experience points I got, the more I was sucked in. Swedish started to make sense, kinda started to sound beautiful. It had it own flow, I liked it. I started to appreciate it. I relearned grammar and widened my vocabulary.

So yeah. I'd say Duolingo works. At least for re-learning languages.

It took me a little over month to finish the Swedish skill tree. I worked hard, one could say I was even a bit too addicted to Duolingo. But it was all for good! It wasn't just a stupid mobile game to waste some time on. I was actually, very seriously, learning something. And I wanted to keep learning even after I finished the skill tree. I started to read books in Swedish and ultimately I made a decision to read nothing but Swedish books this year.

Det handlar ocksÄ om mig

My progress with books is quite slow, but it is definitely still progress. I try my best to learn Swedish from other sources too. It's easy here in Finland, there is Swedish practically everywhere when you really start to look for it. I've learn countless new words for example from ads, street signs and instructions. Sometimes I feel impatient, like I should be working harder or learning faster, but then again I understand that it takes time and practice to become fluent, it doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen easily. After all it has taken me a decade to become fluent in English and I've only studied Swedish actively for a year. Couple new words every week is more than enough. I'll get there, eventually.

Besides, I am also in level 14 in Dutch.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Papu update

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I only have one dog now, Papu. The current trend with dogs and divorces seems to be a joint custody, but I never wanted that and nether did J.R. Papu has always been more like my dog and Niila has always been more his dog. It was the most obvious choice for us to divide the dogs.

Some people were surprised that we decided to divide the dogs though. Apparently it's considered to be cruel to divide dogs who have grown up and lived together. I believe it depends on the dogs. I lived together for three months with my friend after J.R. and I broke up and Papu was the only dog in the household and she seemed to enjoy it tremendously. She was happier than ever before, much calmer and she seemed to enjoy human company more than usually too. I feel that I built a better relationship with Papu too when I was able to really concentrate on her. I even managed to teach her a new trick. I could not see any sign of suffering in Papu, she was just fine. Like Niila never existed in the first place. In a way it's a sad thought, that Papu is able to forget Niila just like that, in a blink of an eye, not being sad for even a day, but on the other hand Papu is a dog and who knows if dogs are really even able to miss something or remember anything. The only thing that matters to me is that she is happy.

My boyfriend also has a dog so now when we live together we have this blended family going on. Papu's new baby brother is called Tomu. I was a bit worried how it would turn out since Papu is pretty bad ass (as miniature pinschers often are) and Tomu is definitely on the softer side of the spectrum. But so far everything has been just great. I think Papu enjoys Tomu's company much more than she ever enjoyed Niila's. Niila was more like a constant nuisance but Tomu understands to keep his distance and have some respect towards Papu too.

Tomu looks mostly like a furry sofa-pillow or something. I can never remember his breed. I just tell people that he has a lot of hair and that he is small. I think I am a bad step-mama for not remembering, but I simply can't remember everything. I can't even remember Papu's birthday (more bad mama points)!

Tomu looks quite smart in the picture and almost majestic, and like something that could actually survive alone in the nature. But it's all false. Tomu is most of the time the most retarded dog I know. Just retarded. But not in a bad way though, retarded like in a silly way. And he would definitely not survive in the nature alone. At least that is what I think. Anyway. I think our blended family is doing good. I try to be a good step-mama and Papu enjoys all the attention she gets from the new housemates. I think this has been the best possible outcome of the situation. There could have been problems, like lots of them, but we got lucky. Papu and Tomu get along and Papu accepts all the new housemates as her loyal servants and worshipers.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Importance of Imperial Units

"Be careful what you wish for", they said. But I wasn't careful so I actually got what I wished for: measuring cups with imperial units. One who does not bake so often probably can't understand why it is so unbelievably handy to have the correct measuring cups. There is Google, indeed, and it's really easy to convert units to other units. Cups to deciliters, no problem, just google it. But it's just pain in the ass really, there are usually several measurements to convert and you have to round them down or up in a weird way. It takes time and the actual baking is annoying because you have to stare at your one deciliter measuring cup and wonder how on earth do you measure 0,36588 deciliters with it. Have you ever tried it? You just can't do it very accurately. And did I already say that it is annoying. It makes you wonder why you chose such a recipe and what is wrong with Americans in the first place.

I assume that my boyfriend chose the measuring cup set based on the functionality (it's not exactly easy to find measuring cups with imperial units here in Finland as they are not the official units here) but they are actually really pretty and please my aesthetics. Somehow I wish all my measuring cups and bowls and other baking equipment were as pretty. I enjoy pretty things in the kitchen too and I am quite of a snob sometimes. Not snob enough to use my ugly old plastic bowls though but still snob enough to wish they were prettier.

Having these measuring cups as actual physical objects also helps me to understand their size better and how they relate to each other. It's easy for me to imagine how much is one or two deciliters since I'm very used to the size of their measuring cups. It's like knowing the size of a regular mug or a glass. You just know how big they generally are. But trying to imagine the exact size of 2,36588 mugs or glasses: considerably harder. So it is difficult for me to imagine the size of the dough when reading through a new recipe. I know how much one cup is in deciliters but multiplying that with one or two or three... I just get lost. Three cups doesn't sound much but it is actually quite a lot of flour, enough to bake one bread! I believe that being able to actually hold the measuring cups, being able to feel their size and to see their size, will definitely help me with this, especially when I get more and more used to them. I expect that eventually one cup becomes one cup for me, and not 2,36588 deciliters. It's a nice thing to think about.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Amoena baked White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

My favorite store-bought cookies are cranberry-white chocolate cookies. I'm not really a fan of cranberries... nor white chocolate, but somehow the combination works. Since I am not into baking and expanding my repertoire to cookies too, I decided to google for a recipe! I found several promising recipes, but I also found this old Google Plus post of mine:

This is a cranberry - white chocolate cookie. It looks home-baked but it's a lie. They're store-bought, a very cheap brand on top of everything. And they're wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I wish I knew how to bake cookies like this, it would make me so proud. I would be baking them all the time and forcing people to eat them so they would have to admire my baking skills. That's how wonderful they are. Just telling you, they're wonderful.
Obviously there was a picture attached too but it is irrelevant. Anyway. Apparently I used to dream about being able to bake such cookies, back in 2011. I think it's the circle of life. You dream of something, never do anything about it, and then later realize you've achieved it anyway. Or maybe it is just my life that works that way.

I found several recipes that pretty much sounded as the same thing. They all had white chocolate and cranberries in them, who could have guessed. No, really, the recipes were quite alike, they just had different amounts of things. I eventually chose one recipe from Good to Know website. Not because it appeared to be somehow more excellent than the other, but because the recipe was in grams and other measurements I was able to comprehend without consulting Google first. I have a really nice kitchen scale but I don't have US measuring cups. Though considering how many US recipes I use, that would make a nice gift. You know, for me.

I prepared my main ingredients. I made the dough. I forgot 100 grams out of my 190 grams of flour. No biggies, I was able to fix that even though I had already stirred in my cranberries and white chocolate. I am sure it made no difference. The cranberries were nice and soft by the way, got them right next door from Lidl.


According to the recipe I should have been able to make balls out of dough, roll them even. My dough was definitely too moist for that. And that is how I originally realized that I have way, way too little flour. But adding more flour didn't fix the problem. I just had to spoon the dough to the baking sheet. Not exactly pretty, and definitely not what I expected. That is not a ball! That is not anything you could work by hands. Ugh?

But how did they turn out! How! And are they as good as the cookies that inspired me? Are they something I would force people to eat just so they could admire my "baking skills"? First of all, they turned our really ugly. They spread quite a bit in the oven and they stayed quite moist. The cookies I like are really dry and small. I need to try to fix that next time. I just don't know how. More flour? Less something? I'm quite a novice when it comes to cookies.

Taste wise they are quite OK. They could taste better, but on the other hand they do taste like cranberries and white chocolate. It's more like the consistency I didn't enjoy so much. But this was just the experiment #1, and there will be more experiments in the future. I had to bake bread like million times before I got it right, I expect the same process with these cookies too. They will become better, every time I make them and after every recipe I try. Practice... makes perfect? Or at least prettier cookies?

And so... this was my first post about baking. But I am not turning this into a baking blog. This blog will be what it has always been: a blog about me. And I am not a pastry!